MTB Gear Review: Novatec TX 29er Wheelset

A little bird answered my prayers. Just the other day I was thinking to myself: “Self, you’ve got this great Gary Fisher Collection Rig single speed. Why don’t you buy the drive side sliding dropout with a derailleur hanger and make yourself a whoopass 1×9 trail destroyer?” Well, for that I would need a rear derailleur, shifter, cassette and wheelset up to the task. I took a peek in the parts bin; lo and behold I found a SRAM XO rear “mech” (as poncy British folk call it), an XO shifter, and a fancy-schmancy 9-speed cassette. Check, check, check. Now where do I find suitable wheels? Shazam! Novatec comes through in the clutch with a set of their TX 29ers, a set of straight-up XC wagon wheels perfectly suited to my project specifications.

Weigh in:

Front / rear. Weights include standard QRs.

For reference, Shimano has an XT 29er wheelset that weighs 1867g. You could make up the weight difference by having a nut surgically removed, or taking a pre-ride restroom constitutional. Either way, the TX wheels are in the “ball” park. Teehee.

The look: these wheels are very pretty. With red anodized hubs and over-sized non-drive side flanges they look high end for sure. Style points are lost with the decal graphics though; they scream “I’m not a graphic designer, but how hard could it be?” Another odd feature is the machined rim bed with wear indicator. Apparently Novatec used a non disc-specific rim but the decals wrap onto the braking surface, so you’d need to do some modifications if you desire v-brakes (remember those?).

Some assembly notes: when I was installing the cassette I noticed the steel insert on the aluminum freehub body. Novatec calls their version of this technology ABG for Anti Bite Guard. It is an elegant way to save some grams while preventing all your pedaling torque from doing this to your delicate parts:

 

Also worth noting is the hand-built goodness that comes with every wheelset of this quality level. There’s a set of beautifully machined inserts for running a standard QR, or 9 or 15mm through axles up front. They spin on Japanese EXO cartidge bearings (2 front, 4 rear). Sapim Laser double butted spokes join hub to rim, and in addition to being hand laced and hand stress-relieved, they come with some very official documentation of the post-build testing that is carried out.

Numbers! Charts! Graphs!

The ride: These wheels were a vast improvement over my stock 2011 Rig wheels in terms of weight and stiffness. It is a great feeling to be able to spin up with less effort and then rail through the corners knowing that you’ll be able to hold that line. The freehub engagement is precise, and the pawls provide a really pleasing, medium-volume “angry bees” kind of soundtrack to accompany your shred session. After at least 25 rides on my local trails with some sloppy lines and cased landings they are still as true as the day they came out of the box. Even if I were over the 90kg recommended rider weight limit, I have a feeling these wheels would provide lots of happy, snappy, drama-free spinning. If your upgrade budget has room for these ($549, plus $100 shipping), I would say it’s a great way to drop some weight, add some flash, and get a versatile set of hoops under your bike.

What can I say? Wisconsin has a lot of corn.

Thanks to the folks at Novatec for providing these 29er wheels for review.

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